Is the “spend less” of early retirement, the “eat less” of dieting?

If you’ve ever lost weight, you may appreciate the comment more than if you haven’t and I will expand.

A number of years ago, I saw a documentary on “the Fat Smoker” and his answer to losing weight was “Eat Less and Exercise More“.

Simple right? Well, it could be that easy, but what proportion of each contributes to weight loss best? Anecdotally, I’ve found the equation to be ~ 0.8(Eat Less) + 0.2(Exercise More), which indicates that eating less contributes to my weight loss by a 4:1 ratio when I’m losing weight, or the Pareto Principle 80/20 rule. The eating less (or better) contributes 80% of the benefit I receive. Not to nullify the 20%, it’s important, but if I could only do one, I’d eat better in an instant. In times of stress / high volume work its a lot easier to simply maintain my diet and not exercise than try to find the time to exercise long hours.

What does this have to do with early retirement? I think the simple equation for saving for retirement is “Spend Less and Make More”. Like exercise more can be more complicated, such as weightlifting versus cardio or HIIT versus crossfit, for example the make more could be broken out into higher salary, more side hustles, better investment returns, etc. For simplicity purpose, we will lump those together into ‘make more’.

Why am I bringing it up? In an early post I noted that I’ve always focused on the credit side of the income statement, being revenues, which equates to ‘make more’. Fortunately, I realized I needed to focus on the debit side of the income statement, being expenses, which equates to ‘spend less’. Unfortunately, I’ve not been good at getting there.

The early blog that started me on this journey, Mr Money Mustache, showed family expenses in 2014 of $25,000. Having one extra child than the Staches and living in a city with a high cost of living, at most I’d guess that I should be $15,000 higher in expenses or $40,000. Unfortunately, last year I spent closer to 7x the Stache number or $175,000. Absolutely unacceptable, how can I do that???

We’ve set a goal this year to get our number down by at least $50,000 and I’d like to continue pushing to get it down below $75,000 per year, which would give us an awesome savings rate!

Why do I want to push the spending reduction so much? I believe that the spending less is the eating less I talked about above. If I can spend a lot less, my models indicate I would be on the way to early retirement so much sooner and there are other benefits aside. First, we would be training our family to live in less so if I lost my job or health, we’d be able to thrive on less. Second, you end up actually ‘making more’ because you have higher investments earning a great return. Most importantly, third you’re able to retire sooner because your retirement nest egg needs to support lower spending, which is the key benefit!

Would the equation be 0.8(Spend Less) + 0.2(Make More)? What do you think? What’s your vote? How do you structure your early retirement road map?

To expedite our journey to early retirement, I’m going to push this equation with the frugaler family and target at least a 30% reduction in spend this year and 20% per year thereafter, always finding ways to save more and get down to between $50,000 and $75,000 per annum.

What do you spend? What were you spending when you started your FI journey?

2 thoughts on “Is the “spend less” of early retirement, the “eat less” of dieting?

  1. A minute ago, I signed up. Reading your blog, the sign up Window pops up frequently, and darkens my screen, it takes several tapping of the screen too make it disappear. Very annoying!!!! I know, you are trying to attract more readers, but blocking the text with your pop up Window and a darkening of the screen is overkill. Have a smaller window, pop up on the bottom of the screen, and don’t darken the screen, will have the same effect without the annoyance factor.

    Also, the text on your site appears in a very light grey color, like a 30 % screen. Obviously this is by design it may appear to be very fashionable, but for someone more senior than you, it is very hard to read. Make your print 100% black, easier to read. Make reading your blog a “pleasant” experience.

    I’m already retired, I also live near Canada’s “cheapest” city, just like you. Just saying. Always interested to learn more, especially about the Canadian aspects of FI.

    Thank you,


    1. Thanks for the feedback. I don’t like the current setup either, and its my own blog 🤗. I’ve downloaded a number of themes and will be improving the site tonight and this weekend with my wife.

      It will be black font on a white background, the cleanest and easiest to read and I will go with a minimal sign-up pop-up, agreed.

      I quite appreciate all of the comments and feedback people are giving me, it’s really help improve the process.

      All the best Aaron,

      Finance Stoic


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